Of the multiple challenges America now faces, one is most fundamental: achieving a responsible balance between individual freedom and constructive pursuit of the common good.

Our nation’s future has been repeatedly threatened by self-destructive temptations to neglect the common good – intentionally or not – when our sense of liberty is degraded by false claims and deluded, self-serving leadership.

In part, this unhealthy pattern stems from a misunderstanding of the country’s legacy, founded in rebellion against abusive authority, which established vaunted status for the individual. It has been further distorted by misconceptions and misdirection derived from classic commentary on the American identity, such as Emerson’s “Self-Reliance.”

Compounding these interwoven influences is the harsh historical record of the cruelties imposed on African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and other darker-skin peoples – both here and internationally – by the white majority, implicitly sanctioned by institutions professing human equality. As a nation, our struggle with these protracted hypocrisies now culminates while we confront other profound difficulties. Any path forward requires that America finally resolve this legacy of racially motivated abuse, which is still being appallingly executed in brutal acts of injustice.

These circumstances call for us to question how we apply our individual abilities – whether to fabricate and defend unfounded assertions that victimize scapegoats who are blamed for ordeals being suffered, or to insightfully reexamine and revitalize our commitment to unifying ideals.

Despite the sacred bonds of society being frayed by the reckless turmoil of selfish agendas that thwart the humanitarian principles of compassion and fairness, by renewing our embrace of the Bill of Rights we can revive our quest to advance America’s founding aspirations and extinguish the malignant perils of exploitation, distrust, and violence.

Many may now wonder if it’s still possible to realize America’s potential for cultivating a durable, diversely promising future. The answer largely depends on our collective ability to acknowledge the vital interconnections and interdependencies among humans – not only fellow Americans, but all who share the blessings, and limitations, of Earth’s prolific but vulnerable abundance.

We must now thoughtfully dedicate our liberties to redefining and serving the common good.

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Image Credit: the image of people holding hands in unity for the common good was created by Evgenii Skorniakov and licensed at Shutterstock.com using contributions from people like you, only more generous so far.

David Kyler

David Kyler

David Kyler is the co-director of the Center for a Sustainable Coast, a non-profit membership organization he co-founded in 1997. The Center works to protect, preserve, and sustain the vital natural, cultural, and economic resources of coastal Georgia.

One of David’s deepest convictions, and a founding principle of the Center, is that environmental research, scientific information, and public involvement are urgently needed to improve decisions affecting the sustainability of natural systems. Accordingly, the Center’s slogan is “Advocating responsible decisions to sustain coastal Georgia’s environment and quality of life.”

To pursue the Center’s mission, Kyler gives priority to raising public awareness about issues affecting coastal Georgia at all levels – from local to state and national, to global. He frequently publishes letters and opinion columns in Georgia newspapers, often commenting on controversial issues that require improving the analysis and coordination of both economic and environmental considerations.

In the past three years alone, on behalf of the Center David has published close to one-hundred commentaries on a range of issues, including offshore drilling, protecting Cumberland Island National Seashore, risks of contamination by coal ash and other toxic materials, coastal development controls, and conflicts between environmental protection and economic development practices.

In the past decade, under Kyler’s influence, the Center has been one of the few Georgia non-profit organizations persistently voicing alarm about the global climate crisis and the urgent need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. In 2018 and 2019 the Center hosted several public forums on climate issues in the Savannah area and collaborated with the Climate Reality Project in organizing a rally in Savannah, scheduled to be coordinated with the international Climate Strike.

Through his work with the Center, David is helping to redefine economic self-interest by incorporating the principles of sustainability in public policies governing both economic development and environmental protection. He is convinced that systemic analysis and life-cycle assessment, including thorough evaluation of economic and societal externalities, are essential to responsible environmental stewardship.

He holds degrees from Lehigh University (BS, Industrial Engineering) and Southern Illinois University (MS, Design Science), and has completed advanced studies in Resource Management and Policy at the State University of New York at Syracuse. Mr. Kyler has worked in environmental policy analysis, regional planning, and public-interest advocacy for over 40 years. He’s been a resident of Saint Simons Island since 1977 and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.